Retail trade, brands and packaging – the trends 2019

What do international trend agencies have to say about the coming year? Pro Carton has compiled the most important forecasts for the retail trade, brands and packaging. More than ever, the focus is on the consumer's experience, so that online and offline merge more and more. Sustainability takes on a new quality: it is no longer just about defending our planet, but about proactively protecting our resources and our health. The global packaging market is continuing to grow: Smithers Pira data shows the value of the European packaging market in 2018 to be €195 billion and forecasts it will reach €214 billion in 2023, a year-on-year increase of 1.9%. Across this period the industry will respond to key shifts, such as consumption of e-commerce formats, demand for sustainable pack designs and packaging that aligns with modern lifestyles.  

Retail Consumer Experience

In 2019, we’ll continue to see marketplaces and traditional retailers converge. “It’s happening both ways, where marketplaces like Amazon are moving to forms of traditional retail, and traditional retailers are making the move to stay relevant in the digital economy”, says Greg Chapman, Senior Vice President Business Development, Avalara, in an interview with the strategists at CPC in San Diego. Shopping journeys now go through a variety of branded touchpoints, digital for sure, but physical touchpoints too. Brands need to be nimble, agile and responsive to shopper needs, and they need to deliver seamless, friction-free paths for their shoppers to navigate. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where the transaction takes place, as long as the transaction takes place within the brand’s ecosystem. It’s a holistic approach to the retail experience, and it’s something retailers, particularly old-school, legacy retailers have learned the hard way”, says Ray Hartjen, Marketing Director at RetailNext. Nikki Baird, VP Retail Innovation, Aptos: “Rather than trying to force shopper journeys that lead to a store, retailers will focus new efforts on creating shopper journeys that meet consumers at the moment, whether that is the moment they realize they have a need or are in the moment of a lifestyle experience that is perfectly enhanced by the retailer’s brand.” “In an effort to promote wellness and deepen relationships with consumers, brands are moving beyond their products to offer services and experiences that encourage self-reflection. As the retail landscape changes, brands are finding new ways to engage with consumers”, agree the experts at J. Walter Thompson. The German supermarket chain Lidl launched a highly unusual initiative. In 2018, a series of summer pop-ups was launched in Ireland, encouraging young people to speak openly about mental health issues. In addition to open discussions, the program included events designed to promote mental wellbeing, such as laughter yoga, meditation and singalong socials. Retailers are clear that today’s consumers need to be inspired to part with their cash. But they’re no longer relying on traditional editorial channels to dream up a story around their products. Instead, in the latest evolution of retailers’ creating content, they’re orchestrating spectacles—both in terms of video content online and in real life—to entertain and fuel consumers desire to make that purchase. Convenience remains important in Mintel's eyes. A new generation of modern convenience food and drink is emerging as manufacturers respond to rising healthy-eating priorities, quests for foodie-inspired flavours, interests in personalisation and competition from speedy delivery services. Lynn Dornblaser, Director Insights and Innovation: “‘Elevated Convenience’ applies to many consumer groups. Young urbanites as well as suburban parents who are looking to feed their kids quick and healthy meals. Seniors also need convenience in new ways as they start to cook less because of inclination or ability. Working-class families need to get more done in less time, too. The common denominator: Everyone is pressed for time.”  


As far as brands are concerned, Mintel puts transparency in first place. As consumers see higher ingredient disclosure in the food, beauty and personal care categories, they will expect the same from household brands. Transparency will move beyond regulations to become an opportunity to grow consumer engagement and loyalty. Consumers will be receptive to new product platforms that change the definition of a clean home and a healthy home. What’s behind a brand matters. Transparency presents an opportunity for companies to engage consumers by addressing ingredient safety, but this is also an opportunity to build trust with the stories behind brands, ingredients and companies. 82% of Spanish surface cleaner users think brands should make it clearer how safe their ingredients are. 65% of Chinese dish detergent buyers say it’s worth paying more for natural products. 90% of Europeans want more information on-pack to show environmentally-friendly the packaging is. If brands don’t change their approach now, they won’t exist in the future. Beauty and personal care (BPC) businesses must switch to a whole new paradigm in terms of sustainability and zero waste. This is not just a trend, it is a movement. Gaining the first-mover advantage is key. The companies that put current profits ahead of investment in zero waste solutions will lose out in the long term. Indie brands already have an edge, as they have built their business practices around ethics. High-profit BPC brands that aren’t investing in this area are already condemning themselves. “But a quick fix won’t do; brands need a long-term strategy that considers every element of the supply chain. Just one weak link could undermine any good intentions”, warns Mintel. The zero-waste concept calls for a whole new definition of ‘luxury’. Consumers are treating their bodies like an ecosystem and seeking solutions that complement their personal health and evolving needs. JWT comments: “Luxury brands have long been devoted purveyors of fur, exotic skins and leather. Now they are in the midst of a dramatic turnaround, abolishing fur and embracing cruelty-free and vegan practices for a new, ethically conscious luxury consumer.”  

New Sustainability

Sustainability is the all-determining constant factor. Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group of JWT Intelligence said: “It’s clear that brand sustainability, once viewed as ‘nice to have’ and limited, perhaps, to recycled packaging, is now a mandate and a base expectation for consumers.” Sustainability as we knew it is over. And brands and consumers are starting to respond in a more proactive and scaled way than ever before. The Innovation Group UK charted this shift towards normalized “radical” sustainability in its 2018 report “The New Sustainability: Regeneration.” It finds that, in order for the planet to thrive, brands and consumers need to look beyond just “doing less harm.” The future of sustainability lies in regeneration; restoring ecosystems, rebalancing our climate, and building economies that thrive, while allowing people and the planet to thrive, too. “Today we don’t want a product, we want ethics, a firm that defends the values that we admire”, states John Galliano, Creative Director, Maison Margiela. Sustainability among brands is undergoing a renaissance as eco-conscious consumers demand ethical practices, responsible behaviour and innovation to cut excess. In response, brands are creating products, services, packaging, and new systems that are as desirable and functional as they are eco-friendly. Make way for the New Sustainability. Mintel is also of the same opinion: “Consumers expect brands to take responsibility for their waste, and will be attracted to manufacturers, companies, and brands that not only do so, but also facilitate waste reduction processes for consumers. There is a movement towards circularity as new approaches to sustainability span the entire life of a product, from ingredient sourcing to package design, disposal, or reuse. The 360-degree approach reflects the principles of a circular economy, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value while in use and then recovering materials at the end of use.”  

Packaging Design

In the age of Instagram, product visuals are becoming just as enticing – and important – as the products themselves. Social media has a huge impact on beauty purchases: 72% of Instagram users have made a beauty or style-related purchase after seeing an item featured on the platform, according to a 2017 survey by Dana Rebecca Designs. To stay relevant in this visually driven environment, brands are prioritizing package design and developing original, attention-grabbing packaging as a central part of their marketing strategy, creating unique package interactions. In the trend discussion with “Packaging Digest”, Emmy Corman, package design engineer at Dollar Shave Club, says, “brands face at least three challenges when it comes to ecommerce packaging: (1) to be less wasteful by using less materials or reusable packaging, (2) to offer a new type of “shelf presence” with better graphics or branding; or to elevate the unboxing experience, and (3) to optimize returns via the small parcel shipping environment, which is a concern brick-and-mortar retailers don’t face.” Sustainability continues to gain in importance, especially in packaging. On 6 December 2018, Nestlé established its own research institute for the development of "functional, safe and environmentally friendly" packaging solutions. By 2025, the company intends to convert all packaging to 100% recyclable or reusable materials. Stefan Palzer, Chief Technology Officer at Nestlé: "Packaging plays a crucial role in ensuring that we can deliver safe and nutritious products to our consumers. The new Institute of Packaging Science will enable us to accelerate the redesign of our packaging solutions.” “The desire for a plastic-free world is largely consumer-led and will gain further momentum in 2019 and beyond”, was also affirmed in a brand new study on consumer trends from Euromonitor in January. The push for a plastic-free society has gained momentum over the past 12 months, and in 2019, consumer desire for a plastic-free world will grow. “Plastics, such as single-use packaging for food and beverages and micro-plastics found in beauty, personal and home care, as well as plastics produced by the fast fashion industry, are coming under increased scrutiny as the ‘Blue Planet Effect’ shines a light on the plastic-based waste products that end up polluting the natural world.” IKEA Sweden for example is phasing out virgin oil-based plastics, committing to making all plastic products from recycled materials by August 2020. Similarly, UK frozen produce supermarket chain Iceland announced plans to remove all plastic packaging from its private label product range by 2023. “Consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to issues of plastic waste and this is impacting their shopping habits. The proportion of those willing to pay more for packaged food and fresh food which is environmentally conscious or eco-friendly has risen over the past two years. Similarly, the proportion of those who feel that recyclable packaging is an influential feature in beverage products has also grown.” 49% of UK consumers who recycle food packaging most of the time say that clearer instructions on which parts of packaging can be recycled would encourage them to recycle food packaging more often. “The throwaway culture is rapidly being challenged by increasing consumer awareness of the perils of plastic waste. A dramatic change in attitudes has occurred, forcing brands to rethink”, says Matthew Crabbe, Director of Trends APAC at Mintel. Sources: